The annual fund is essential, even in institutions with big endowments. In a 2011 article in In Trust, Rebekah Burch Basinger highlighted the steps boards should take to ensure the success of annual giving campaigns:

  •  Define the parameters in which the annual fund operates:

Board members need to understand their school’s annual fund parameters. For example, are gifts such as bequests or student financial aid gifts included in the annual fund? It’s important for the board to know exactly what is and isn’t included in their annual fund amount.

  • Participate in setting a realistic goal for the annual giving program:

Boards can sometimes end up setting a fundraising goal that is well beyond their school’s ability and history of giving. Therefore, boards should look carefully at their past amounts raised and the financial capabilities of their members in order to establish a realistic annual fund goal.

  • Monitor progress and respond quickly to early signs of trouble:

Rather than being surprised towards the end of the fiscal year by the inability to meet their goal, board members should periodically track the progress of the annual fund as the year progresses. Basinger suggests using a gift range chart, which lists the number of gifts and amounts raised at a given point in time in previous years, to provide a comparison for current progress. She also provides a sample gift range chart to use as a template.

How does your board handle annual fundraising? Do you see any differences in the fundraising landscape now, five years after this article was first published?

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